Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween Teacher Breakfast

At our elementary school, we have a guy called "Bike Dude." Bike Dude is in charge of all of our "Walk and Roll" days, which is the one day each month when kids are encouraged to walk bike or scooter to school. Whenever the Bike Dude's kids graduate from elementary school, we get a new Bike Dude. It's like the new Darren on Bewitched:

Everyone just pretends that this is the only Bike Dude that ever was and the kids don't seem to notice (a sign that all grownups look the same to kids). I've been a parent at the elementary school for so long, I'm on Bike Dude number three. Since the Baby is in kindergarten, I'll probably be looking at Bike Dude five or six before I'm done. Instead of saying, "I've been a parent at this school for nine years (!)," I can just say I've been there for "five Bike Dudes."

So, last year I pledged to volunteer less this year, and I almost succeeded. Yes, almost. After going an oddly long time without any contact from the room parents in the Boy's class, I asked around and learned that due to various issues, all the room parent volunteers, save one, had quit. Quit?! I am kicking myself for never realizing that this was an option! Here I was thinking that being a room parent was like indentured servitude, and that, once committed, I was obliged to serve for a year until I secured my release.

I'm joking, and of course I volunteered to be a room parent because I've never really had the courage of my convictions. Naturally, our class was scheduled to co-host the monthly Teacher Appreciation Breakfast two weeks after I signed on to be room parent. Naturally, I volunteered to organize it on behalf of the class. You may remember that I worked on this same breakfast last year and was lucky enough to co-host with our local version of Martha Stewart. She did everything, which left me time to pour a pitcher of water all over the floor for comic relief. As is often the case with my jokes, it wasn't actually very funny.

This year, I was Martha Stewart-less, which meant that I had to use my own creatively bankrupt mind to come up with a theme for the breakfast. Something to know about our elementary school: we observe no holidays. We pretend like holidays do not exist lest someone get offended by some symbol or accouterment of the celebration. I guess this avoids a lot of controversy, but it's also somewhat artificial when we celebrate "love and kindness," with a party that coincidentally falls on Februrary 14th. Halloween was jettisoned, of course, because someone is bound to object to witches (Satan, y'all), skeletons (evolution, y'all), ghosts (occult, y'all), and candy (childhood obesity, y'all). Well, if Meagan Trainor can bring booty back, I decided that I could bring Halloween back as the theme of the teacher breakfast. As the year goes on, we'll see how this no-shits-left-to-give approach to room parenting works.

I recycled the majority of our sign up sheet from last year, but decided to have a yogurt "bar" rather than the grits bar that we had last year. Martha Stewart had been in charge of the grits bar, probably awakening at 4 am to start the grits cooking in multiple crockpots. I appreciate the teachers, but I appreciate sleep more. Here's our food sign up:

We had a good volunteer response, which meant that I just concentrated on the decor and yogurt bar toppings.

I was sooooo tempted to go with something crazy gross for a dish or centerpiece:



I am really not all that squeamish, but that skull...I just can't. What do you think it's made of? Spam? Luncheon meat? Gag. But, I went old-school for the centerpiece and I mean really old school with a caldron. Seeing as a real, cast iron caldron would be too heavy for me to drag to the school, I picked up a plastic one for $7 at Target. I filled it with tissue paper and stuck some "treats" for the teachers inside:

I mean, who doesn't like reading magazines while they eat lunch?

Additional treats included a bunch of back to school pencils that I had saved to do a project that never happened, some granola bars that my kids rejected for being too healthy, and the "ghost" bag contained some peppermint Life Savers because fresh breath is a treat for everyone!

Of course, there was one trick:

I have no idea where that bat came from, but maybe he's supposed to go in a Barbie's Haunted Dream House Halloween display, because he's out of scale for human Halloween decorations. If I had a little more time and the materials to make it happen, I would have glued him to a skewer and stuck him into the display, instead of tying him to bag handle.

I had a couple of white table cloths and bought two black, spiderweb table runners at Target. Before you get all impressed that I have two white table cloths, I should let you know that I bought the second one because I put the first one in a "safe place" and couldn't find it for about a year. When I helped with the teacher breakfast at the Baby's school in the spring (where everything was organic, humane, and farm-raised), I broke down and bought a new white table cloth at Target. I mean, I wove a tablecloth on my artisanal loom out of cotton plants grown pesticide-free, cruelty-free backyard garden. Then I found my old tablecloth, so now I have two.

The room parent from the co-hosting classroom and I met the afternoon before the breakfast to set up the table, which was a great idea, except that it was monsooning outside and we both got soaking wet carrying caldrons and trays and tablecloths from our cars to the school. If I had one suggestion about hosting an early-morning anything, it's to get as much as possible set up the day before, so you're just dumping food into serving dishes the day of the breakfast. Also, talk to someone about fixing the weather so it doesn't rain when you're trying to set up.

So, the day of the breakfast I'm always kind of worried that someone who signed up to bring something very important isn't going to show. Plates and forks or spoons (preferably both) are pretty hard to do without when you're serving food to 60 people. The good news was that most people who signed up to bring items actually showed up. The bad news is that the fork person was a no-show. Luckily, there was a gigantic box of plastic utensils in the teacher's room so no one had to eat with a plastic knife or their hands. Here's a picture of the spread:

That silver bucket on the back table next to the microwave contained the little cups of yogurt. We just scooped plain Greek yogurt into plastic cups and put them on ice. The toppings we ended up with were honey, agave nectar, cinnamon, two types of granola, and raspberry preserves. Ideally, we would have included some berries, too, but it's not really the season and we already had so much fruit that we hoped people would realize that the fruit could be mixed into the yogurt even if they weren't next to each other.

Another new addition to this breakfast was a cooler full of mini Cokes, Diet Cokes, and Coke Zeros so that teachers could take a drink back to class. After working on so many of these breakfasts I've noticed that certain items are always popular: Homemade cinnamon buns, Chick fil-A mini biscuits, warm casseroles, Starbucks Frappuccino drinks, and bacon (not necessarily in that order). I've never made cinnamon buns, but I might have to try. The last two teacher breakfasts, two separate moms contributed cinnamon buns and they went like hotcakes...or cinnamon buns. Both women claimed that they're easy to make, but probably not as easy as dumping granola into a bowl.

We didn't get any grief about the Halloween theme, which is good because I still have four more Teacher Breakfasts to look forward to in the next three and half years at the school. That's at least two more Bike Dudes, if you're counting.

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